CT stands for ‘computed tomography’ and is a form of imaging using x-rays which rotate around the body to create detailed cross-sectional images of the inside of the body. The series of cross-sectional scans is built up using a computer to produce a detailed 3D image of your internal body structures and organs for diagnosis. CT is very accurate for early detection of certain conditions.
Scans can be undertaken on most areas of the body following a referral from your GP or other clinician. The results of the scan will be reviewed by a Consultant Radiologist and a report sent to your GP or referring clinician. CT technology can also be used to facilitate other procedures including guided injections into the spinal facet joints or steroid injections into the hips for pain relief.
Before having a CT scan
Before having the scan, you may be given a special dye called contrast to help improve the quality of the images. Tell the radiographer if you feel anxious or claustrophobic about having the scan. They can give you advice to help you feel calm.
Before the scan starts, you may be asked to remove your clothing and put on a gown. You'll also be asked to remove anything metal, such as jewellery, as metal interferes with the scan images.
What happens during a CT scan?
During the scan, you'll usually lie on your back on a flatbed that passes into the CT scanner. The scanner consists of a ring that rotates around a small section of your body as you pass through it. The scanner doesn't surround your whole body at once, so you shouldn't feel claustrophobic. The radiographer will operate the scanner from the next room. While the scan is taking place, you'll be able to hear and speak to them through an intercom.
While each scan is taken, you'll need to lie very still and breathe normally. This ensures that the scan images aren't blurred. You may be asked to breathe in, breathe out, or hold your breath at certain points.
What happens afterwards?
You shouldn't experience any after effects from a CT scan and can usually go home soon afterwards. You can eat and drink, go to work and drive as normal.
If a contrast was used, you may be advised to wait in the hospital for up to 30mins to make sure you don't have a reaction to it. The contrast is normally completely harmless and will pass out of your body in your urine, colourlessly.
Your scan results won't usually be available immediately. A computer will need to process the information from your scan, which will then be analysed by a radiologist (a specialist in interpreting images of the body).
After analysing the images, the radiologist will write a report and send it to the doctor who referred you for the scan, so they can discuss the results with you. The report normally takes 48 hours to reach your GP or referring clinician.
The scan will usually take around 10-20 minutes.
CT technology can also be used to facilitate other procedures including guided injections into the spinal facet joints or steroid injections into the hips for pain relief.